Two UT Southwestern Scientists Earn Top 20 Ranking in Translational Research

UTSouthwesternMedTwo UT Southwestern Medical Center investigators have earned spots on a list of Top 20 Translational Researchers. This list is created by the Nature Publishing Group’s Bioentrepreneur, a web portal for readers interested in commercialization of advances in science.

The University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas, Texas, is one of the premier academic medical centers in the nation and integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution’s faculty includes many distinguished members, including five who have been awarded Nobel Prizes since 1985. According to a news release from the institution, Dr. Eric Olson, Chair of Molecular Biology, placed sixth on the list, while Dr. Philip Thomas, Professor of Physiology, was 16th among the top 20 for 2012, the latest year announced.

Dr. David Russel, Vice Provost and Dean of Basic Research, said he and the institution are “delighted” with the recognition. “Dr. Olson’s studies in heart development and Dr. Thomas’ analysis of unfolded proteins in human disease are paradigms of medically relevant and commercially applicable research,” he explained.

The method used to compile the list included the number of patents linked to corresponding authors and the studies’ institutional affiliations, according to the website. Patents are frequently used as a measure of commercialization activity, and they are critical to the mission of the Office of Technology Development to develop UT Southwestern inventions.

In 2013, Dr. Olson, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, has been awarded the March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology, for discovering an astonishing number of genes and regulatory pathways governing the development and growth of the cardiovascular system, leading to novel concepts and therapies to treat heart disease in children and adults. Before that, he received the 2012 Passano Award, which recognized his identification of major genetic pathways controlling the development of the heart and other muscles.

Dr. Olson currently directs UT Southwestern’s Nancy B. and Jake L. Hamon Center for Basic Research in Cancer.

As for Dr. Thomas, his research focuses on the folding, structure, and function of integral membrane proteins and their misfolding as the basis of human disease. By the beginning of the XXI century, Dr. Thomas discovered that protein folding is disrupted in cystic fibrosis, a serious, chronic genetic condition that affects breathing and digestion. His laboratory also developed a novel way to monitor the disease process inside cells.

Dr. Thomas was senior author of a 2012 study published in Cell that used a novel technique to determine that the most common cystic fibrosis mutation actually impacts two different cellular processes, which explained why current treatments are only partially effective. The study also suggested ways to identify new treatments that deliver a one-two punch against both defective processes.

UT Southwestern has also been distinguished by Nature Biotechnology, which created a list of highest-ranking institutions by proportion of studies selected by SciBX during 2012. The journal placed UT Southwestern fourth on this ranking, considering about 200 articles from 102 institutions that had more than four studies highlighted during the year. Learn more about the institution on their website.

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